HULT Prize 2019 – AU Students plan to make energy cleaner, safer and more accessible for Africa

Inspired by Africa’s energy challenges that many have previously thought insurmountable, Blessing Mlambo, Desire Gwature, Tanatsiwa Chatsama, Tapiwa Chamboko and Tinaye Makoni formed a team that sought to look at the energy question from a different angle. Globally, the world is making a concerted effort to move away from harmful fossil fuels that while providing cheap energy, have a massive pay off in relation to the degradation of ecosystems, reduction in the quality of the air that we breathe and consequently driving an overall change in global climate conditions that do not bode well for the future of the planet.

Alternative energy options are being explored by researchers all over the world in the hopes of achieving a clean, sustainable future with solar, nuclear, wind and many other energy sources being tested. For the 5 Africa University Computer Science students who have made alternative energy their passion, the solution for Africa lies in Hydrokinetic Energy.

Hydrokinetic energy as its name implies, entails the capture of energy from moving water bodies such as the oceans and rivers that convert the natural movement of these water bodies into electricity. This form of technology has been in use dating back to early civilizations such as the Ancient Greeks who made use of river currents to power grinding mills. Naturally in the contemporary age, the technology has become highly technical so as to generate enough electricity to potentially power entire cities.

Tinaye Makoni one of the researchers said,

“Energy is one of the biggest industries and has paved way for technological innovations and industrial expansion. We are particularly enthusiastic about renewable energy as it is a sustainable source that has a lower impact on the environment. It could potentially create a lifeline for human survival. Our priority is on hydrokinetic energy because it is the future of hydropower generation. It functions without damns, does not block marine life migration patterns nor displace human populations. It could empower and capacitate the rural areas especially who are most vulnerable when it comes to access to energy.”

Their noble intentions saw the team participate in the 2019 edition of the Hult Prize from 26-30 April in Tokyo, Japan. The Hult Prize Competition founded by Bertil Hult is an annual yearlong competition that crowd sources ideas from brilliant college students from across the globe tackling issues such as food security, energy, climate change, water access and education. The competition has been termed the Nobel Peace Prize for university students.

The AU team made it to the group finals and although they did not win the competition, their idea has gained interest from organizations such as the Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC)  and Nyangani Renewable Energy with the aim of supporting the budding entrepreneurs. Tinyaye spoke of their experience at the Hult Competition,

“It was more than just a competition for us. It sparked our creativity and imagination and reignited our optimism in the future that we are trying to build. We learnt that the world is wide open to us. We the youth are the leaders of tomorrow and it is integral to be given support such as that we received from Africa University. We know of the trust that has been placed in us and we shall deliver!”.

Africa University has made a pledge through its i5Hub to continue to encourage and support its students in getting the necessary exposure they require to fine tune and hone their ideas, tapping into an international well spring of knowledge that will undoubtedly not only assist them in their creative process but also embolden other students to dream big.

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